With Australia Day almost upon us for another year it is quite timely that I find myself writing this review of a wonderful book I finaly read during this summer break. The Forgotten Holocaust A Gypsy's Journey from Auschwitz to Freedom was written by author Caroline P. Cooper. We had the pleasure of meeting at another fellow author's book launch before attending each others book launches in 2012. I was honoured to be able to attend the book launch for Caroline's Forgotten Holocaust as the book was launched by none other than Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Governor General of Australia. The evening was one I will never forget and will always appreciate the opportunity given to me to meet such a marvelous Ambassador for our country. I learnt a lot that evening about the history of the Roma which until then I confess to knowig very little about. I came away with a far better understanding and appreciation for the persecution throughout all history that these people have gone through.
I admit it has taken me however, until this summer to pick up her book and read it, but I am very glad that I did.
Not only is it a story of fear, tragedy and loss for a race of people so easily forgotten, it is also a story of forgiveness, coming together and acceptance. The story reminds us that all Australians, no matter what their heritage or backgrounds, are a multicultural mix of people who come together in this wonderful land of freedom and tolerance and accept one another for who and what we are. On days like Australia Day and Harmony day we celebrate our differences as well as our similarities and live, work and play together in a co-hesive and generally harmonious society.
The Forgetton Holocaust is cleverly written with two story lines interwoven. The first being the Romani (Gypsy) Gil Webb, who is caught up in WW2 and the atrocities of the Nazi prisnoer of war camp. He becomes an English soldier spying in Holland who is inevitably caught and sent to Auschwitz where he struggles to survive until his eventual release at the end of the war. However peace of mind is not so easy and Gil is tormented by his memories for many years, even after he has settled in his new home in Australia. The second story revolves around his granddaughter many years later living a peaceful life in Australia searching for love, not knowing her family history. Her mother had decided to keep the past secret so that when everyone else in her office celebrates their heritage, Lily celebrates her Australianism. How these two stories come together and the inevitable events that lead to forgiveness and acceptance are truely heart warming.
The book makes the point that every Australian originated from somewhere else. I am fifth generation Australian, my great, great grandfather immigrated from England in 1850, however many of us have come from such a vast array of cultures over the years that we are now a melting pot of the most amazing richness of anscestry.
We can all choose to live in the past, hold grudges, relive nightmares and forever be tormented by pain or we can choose to move on past the memories. Live for the future and celebrate the lives we have now, sharing this fabulous nation. This Australia Day, be proud of who you are, where you came from, but also look forward to the wonderful united mix of people that makes our home, so great.